Petitioners seek revote on St. George waterfront development

By Stephen Betts | Jun 14, 2018
The waterfront property at 10 Storage Road in Port Clyde is the subject of a petition drive.

St. George — Opponents of the town's spending more than $2.6 million to develop a waterfront parcel purchased three years ago want a do-over.

Petitioners gathered signatures Tuesday, June 12, at the polls to direct the St. George Select Board to hold off spending any money on development of the 10 Cold Storage Road property until a revote is held in November.

Town residents voted 188 to 184 May 14 to authorize the town to borrow up to $2.64 million to develop the property for commercial and recreational uses. St. George residents voted in May 2015 to buy the Cold Storage property for $810,000. The vote was 245 to 104.

But resident Nick Lapham said the number of votes cast in this year's election was too few to commit the town to spend such a large sum of money.

The petition asks the town to hold off spending any money until a revote is held in November, when turnout will be much greater. In addition, the petitioners want the town to submit a charter change to residents that all future bond referendums must be placed on November ballots in even-numbered years to ensure that at least 50 percent of registered voters will cast ballots.

Gubernatorial and presidential elections attract far more voters than primary or special elections. In the November 2016 presidential vote, there were 1,689 ballots cast in St. George.

"No one to date has made a clear and compelling case as to how this investment will benefit all of the residents of St. George, most of whom will never use the proposed new facility," Lapham said in a letter to the editor of The Courier-Gazette prior to the May 14 vote.

But St. George Harbormaster Dave Schmanska countered in a letter to the newspaper before this year's vote that the essence of the plan was to create a single waterfront facility by connecting the existing town landing to the new property.

"This project is about preservation of waterfront access and the creation of potential options for the town and those who use the sea to earn a living. The face of the working waterfront has changed and will continue to change over time. We don’t know if the future will bring new types of aquaculture, additional harvesting of rock weed, a rebound in ground fishing or something we haven’t thought of yet. What we do know is that as that face changes, this property will be designed to meet those needs," Schmanska said in his letter.

St. George Town Manager Tim Polky said the Select Board is scheduled to  discuss the petition at its Monday, June 25, meeting.

Lapham said the petitioners need 142 signatures to trigger a new vote. He said the citizens have gathered more signatures than that and will continue to collect more signatures over the next 10 days.

Schmanska had said the development would include filling in two areas with stone and would nearly double the usable wharf surface by adding 9,400 square feet. The project would also increase dock frontage by more than 150 feet. The plan has the potential for increased floats for docking, a second improved launch ramp, some additional parking and basic amenities, such as shoreside benches and walkways.

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